A randomised controlled trial comparing hypnosis vs. biofeedback in the treatment of chronic low back pain has been published in the European Journal of Pain. The study tested 100 veterans with chronic low back pain, and compared different 'doses' of hypnotic interventions (8 sessions, 8 sessions + recordings, 2 sessions + recordings) with an 8 session biofeedback active control condition. The hypnosis groups reported greater pain reductions than the biofeedback group, and treatment gains were maintained over at least three months.

Tan, G., Rintala, D. H., Jensen, M. P., Fuki, T., Smith, D., Williams, W. (2014). A randomized controlled trial of hypnosis compared with biofeedback for adults with chronic low back pain. European Journal of Paindoi: 10.1002/ejp.545

Abstract

Background

Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is common and results in significant costs to individuals, families and society. Although some research supports the efficacy of hypnosis for CLBP, we know little about the minimum dose needed to produce meaningful benefits, the roles of home practice and hypnotizability on outcome, or the maintenance of treatment benefits beyond 3 months.

Methods

One hundred veterans with CLBP participated in a randomized, four-group design study. The groups were (1) an eight-session self-hypnosis training intervention without audio recordings for home practice; (2) an eight-session self-hypnosis training intervention with recordings; (3) a two-session self-hypnosis training intervention with recordings and brief weekly reminder telephone calls; and (4) an eight-session active (biofeedback) control intervention.

Results

Participants in all four groups reported significant pre- to post-treatment improvements in pain intensity, pain interference and sleep quality. The hypnosis groups combined reported significantly more pain intensity reduction than the control group. There was no significant difference among the three hypnosis conditions. Over half of the participants who received hypnosis reported clinically meaningful (≥30%) reductions in pain intensity, and they maintained these benefits for at least 6 months after treatment. Neither hypnotizability nor amount of home practice was associated significantly with treatment outcome.

Conclusions

The findings indicate that two sessions of self-hypnosis training with audio recordings for home practice may be as effective as eight sessions of hypnosis treatment. If replicated in other patient samples, the findings have important implications for the application of hypnosis treatment for chronic pain management.

 

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